The Haram Shake: a protest movement

by Toby Manhire / 14 March, 2013
The Harlem Shake dance has earned a cameo in the Arab Spring, a symbol of defiance against Islamist authorities.

The Pyramids Harlem Shake.


The silly, bouncy, bass-heavy song Harlem Shake may have been swiftly written off by critics, their ears still ringing from the last online dance meme Gangnam Style.

But it has, all the same, earned itself at least a footnote in the digital-revolution chapter of the Arab Spring chronicles.

When Tunisian authorities cracked down on students recording a Harlem Shake, it suddenly became potent.


“Young Egyptian activists, emulating their Tunisian counterparts, turned the internet dance meme into a mode of protest,” reports the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, “against the [ruling party] the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, and militant Islam in general.”

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered outside the Brotherhood headquarters to perform, flash-mob-style, the hip-swivelling routine.

The protesters call themselves the Satiric Revolutionary Struggle, explains Amar Toor at the website the Verge, “an opposition group devoted to making political statements through humorous demonstrations”.



"We were tired of the protests and the blood and the martyrs," group organiser Mahmoud Tabei tells the Verge.

“Dancing in the street is something abnormal in Egyptian society. People say it is morally bad — 'Oh, that’s un-Islamic!' So that’s why we chose Harlem Shake, because it’s this kind of behaviour that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists consider haram [forbidden by Islamic law]."


And the name of the user who uploaded one of the most popular Egyptian versions, shot against a backdrop of the pyramids? Haram Shake.



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